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Michal Cekovsky has his chance to be Maryland basketball’s premier big man

Let’s take a look at the Terps’ centers.

NCAA Basketball: Howard at Maryland Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to our 2017-18 basketball preview. This week, we’re breaking down our roster preview by position. After starting with the point guards and shooting guards, and moving on the small forwards and power forwards, it’s time to close our position preview series with the centers.

Maryland basketball enters the 2017-18 season with one true center in Michal Cekovsky and a rotation of guys who’d ideally be power forwards backing him up.

Behind Cekovsky, graduate transfer Sean Obi seems like the first guy off the bench in his stead, as he played 12 minutes in Maryland’s exhibition against Randolph-Macon Thursday night. Beyond those two, any one of Ivan Bender, Bruno Fernando, or even Justin Jackson or Joshua Tomaic could see time at the five in smaller lineups.

The starter: Michal Cekovsky, No. 15

Hometown: Kosice, Slovakia
High School: Canarias Academy
Year: Senior
Measurables: 7’1, 250
2016-17 stats: 4.9 ppg, 0.3 apg, 1.8 rpg, 65.2 FG%, N/A 3pt%, .12 spg, 1.18 bpg.

Cekovsky only played in 17 games last season, starting four, due to a combination of injuries and Damonte Dodd holding down the center spot in his fourth and final season in College Park. But this season, after the Terps lost Dodd to graduation, the five is Cekovsky’s spot to lose. Unfortunately, the big man missed almost the entire offseason with that same injury that kept him out last season, Turgeon told reporters earlier this week. After Thursday night’s exhibition game, in which Cekovsky scored six points and pulled in a rebound in 17 minutes, Turgeon mentioned that his seven-footer was still regaining confidence landing on his surgically repaired foot.

“If you could've seen Ceko the first practice, he's come a long ways,” Turgeon said Thursday night. The Terps will need Cekovsky’s presence in the post both on offense and defense this season if they’re to make any sort of postseason run, and with a few question marks behind him, his health is of the utmost importance.

The backup: Sean Obi, No. 0

Hometown: Kaduna, Nigeria
High School: Green Farms Academy
Year: Graduate transfer
Measurables: 6’9, 250
2016-17 stats: N/A

Obi’s career has been maligned with injuries. The Nigerian international started his collegiate career at Rice, where he led Conference USA in rebounding as a freshman, before transferring to Duke. There, he sat out his sophomore year and only played in 10 games as a junior due to recurring knee issues. As a one-and-done grad transfer at Maryland, he’s expected to bring toughness and rebounding to a Terps team that desperately lacked those things last season.

In his first-ever live action in a Terps uniform, Obi bullied his way to eight points and eight rebounds in only 12 minutes. If he’s able to consistently give between 10-15 minutes per game, while continuing to put up similar numbers, he could be a difference maker off the bench this season.

Other possibilities

In short spurts, any one of Bender, Fernando, Tomaic or Jackson could play center in an effort to go small and create matchup problems for opponents. Each brings a slightly different set of skills to the table. Bender is more of a finesse player, while Fernando—who’s probably the best fit at the five in a pinch—is reportedly one of the most physical players on the team. Tomaic, who describes himself as a stretch-four, pulled in three rebounds while also shooting 2-2 from the field Thursday.

Jackson is perhaps the most intriguing option at the five, as his ability to step outside the three-point line could really wreak havoc on an opposing defense. Also, his 7’3 wingspan should give him the ability to defend taller players in the post, at least for a few minutes here and there.